Advanced Technology Lunar Telescopes I. Overview and Progress Report On Ultra-Lightweight Optics

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Session 10 -- South Polar and Lunar Telescopes
Display presentation, Wednesday, January 12, 9:30-6:45, Salons I/II Room (Crystal Gateway)

[10.01] Advanced Technology Lunar Telescopes I. Overview and Progress Report On Ultra-Lightweight Optics

P.C. Chen, R.E. Pitts (CSC), R.J. Oliversen, J.D. Stolarik, K. Segal (NASA/GSFC), T.L. Wilson (NASA/JSC), E.I. Lin (JPL), J.R. Hull (ANL), R. Romeo (CMA), H. Hojaji (CUA), K.B. Ma, Q.Y. Chen, W.K. Chu, C.W. Chu (UH)

The materials and technology already exist to build fully functional steerable telescopes for use on the moon, telescopes that are cost effective, that can be deployed using existing launchers, and that can function for extended periods without human maintenance. We describe our concept of advanced technology telescopes (ATT) which combines the elements of i) ultra-lightweight precision optics and structures, ii) non-contact, electronically controlled superconductor bearings and drive mechanisms, and iii) high dynamic range radiation resistant sensors. Unlike previous transit telescope designs, the ATTs can point and track objects anywhere in the sky over the entire lunar night (or day), can be deployed in multiple unit arrays, and can be equipped with standard astronomical instruments including spectrographs, imagers, or even interferometers. We first describe the optics. Lightweight optics are crucial because they minimize the mass of the telescope assembly and its support structure and ultimately the entire payload. By using materials and fabrication technology similar to that already refined by ESA and proven for space applications, we show that it is possible to produce precision optical elements of very low areal density (< 2 kg per sq. m). The process also has much lower per unit cost compared to traditional mirror fabrication techniques. By supporting the optical elements with a class of very lightweight but stiff material already developed by NASA, a telescope assembly can be made that has essentially the minimum possible mass. Such ultra-lightweight construction makes possible astronomical payloads that can be sent to the moon using existing small and medium size rockets. The very low per unit cost permits the production and deployment of multiple units, thereby increasing the versatility and productivity of a lunar observatory while providing good redundancy. We demonstrate a proof-of-concept optical telescope assembly that has a 31 cm diameter primary, 1/4 wave (visible) surface accuracy, and a mass of less than 1 kg.

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